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For all the uncertainty surrounding how financial services will operate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one area that is guaranteed to change is stakeholder engagement. With in-person conversations, on-site meetings and large gathering likely to be significantly scaled back or eliminated in the future, leaders of DTCC’s main external-facing functions are focused on how engagement and collaboration would evolve in the “new” business as usual environment.

During DTCC’s live-streamed 2020 Client Forum, titled “Business as Unusual - Defining the New Normal,” Timothy Keady, Chief Client Officer and Head of DTCC Solutions, explained how past crisis events, including 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and Superstorm Sandy, provided lessons that laid the groundwork for the industry to maintain a high level of engagement throughout the early days of the crisis.

Adapting to Changing Client Needs

Marie Chinnici-Everitt, DTCC Chief Marketing Officer, commented that providing stakeholders and client-facing staff with timely information was essential, particularly early on as clients requested information on DTCC’s resilience plans. Communications needed to be direct, transparent and frequent, particularly as events were fast-moving. she said. “We needed to be able to experiment with new communications approaches and adapt quickly in order to provide information in a way our clients felt was working best for them.”

Mark Vercruysse, DTCC Head of Global Relationship Management, emphasized how past events helped shape the firm’s response., including the use of extensive planning and testing, early and frequent communications and flexibility and adaptability by both DTCC and the industry.

Communication and Collaboration

Ann Shuman, DTCC General Counsel, who served as point person overseeing DTCC’s outreach to the regulatory community said the firm hosted daily calls with supervisors to provide transparency into a wide range of risk issues and proactively shared information to maintain market stability. Regulators, in turn, made themselves readily available and fostered an atmosphere of partnership that was critical as extreme volatility endured for several weeks.

While DTCC and the industry continue to address the immediate impacts of the crisis, they have also begun considering the most effective engagement approaches for the future. All agreed that virtual meetings provide an alternate way to interact with clients and key stakeholders and have proven so far to allow for more spontaneous and frequent collaboration and information sharing. Chinnici-Everitt noted that as firms settle into the new normal, technology will create opportunities to redefine the engagement model and make it nimbler and more responsive to stakeholder needs.

Crisis Brings Opportunity

Shuman and Vercruysse said the ability to create more immediate feedback loops will benefit their constituencies in the future. DTCC has already gained insight into which channels are proving to be most effective and will continue to communicate with stakeholders in a targeted way. As the focus changes from emergency communications to future strategic planning, DTCC is working on understanding clients’ shifting priorities.

For example, Vercruysse noted that a top concern during the crisis has been operational and reconciliation issues, as well as excessive numbers of uncleared margin calls. Based on that feedback, he has worked with his counterparts in Marketing & Communications and Sales to provide information on DTCC’s Margin Transit Utility (MTU), which improves settlement efficiency and reduces operational complexity and risk for collateral call processing. Additionally, he took a similar approach to sharing information about DTCC’s Risk Management as a Service API, which allows firms to gain greater insight into their current and historical unsettled positions, letting clients analyze and manage risk and liquidity across functions efficiently.

While the “new normal" may remain somewhat undefined at the moment, how business is conducted will undoubtedly evolve as a result of the crisis. However, according to the three panelists, that creates opportunity to experiment with new tools, approaches and channels to develop unique engagement models that serve the best interests of the firm’s diverse group of stakeholders.